Once there was a time in America when retirement meant enjoying your golden years. It could be taking a long-awaited trip, volunteering in your community, or spending time with the grandkids. Retirement, however, did not mean continuing to work. Unfortunately, the reality in America today is that many people do work or plan to work during their retirement. A new report from AARP sheds some light on this situation.
Researchers at AARP examined the 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey. They found that about three-quarters (74%) of workers feel at least somewhat confident about being able to meet their basic needs in retirement, but only two-thirds (67%) feel at least somewhat confident about being able to live comfortably. Moreover, nearly one-third (31%) have less than $25,000 saved for retirement. Almost four-in-ten (39%) workers plan to work during retirement just to make ends meet.
While it’s encouraging that so many Americans feel confident about being able to at least meet their basic needs, reality does not always match expectations. Some workers have to retire earlier than planned, and the AARP survey shows that half of those who retired earlier than planned say their retirement expenses are higher than expected. Often, workers have to retire early due to health issues, caregiving duties, or other external circumstances.
When workers are forced to retire early, having the security and reliability of a defined benefit pension can ease the transition into retirement. It can also provide peace of mind if the retiree is caring for a sick spouse or dealing with health issues of their own. Unfortunately, pensions are under attack all over the country.
Pensions have declined significantly in the private sector over the past three decades. A powerful story from the Washington Post recently described the plight of workers who lost their pensions. It noted that many of them were forced to work into their seventies just to pay the bills.
While many public employees still have access to a defined benefit pension, states across the nation are considering cutting benefits or closing pension plans under pressure from anti-pension ideologues. This has real consequences for retired public servants. In Michigan, twenty years after closing its pension plan for state employees, the median amount saved in the new defined contribution plan for a worker age 60 and older is only $36,000. This would barely finance a year’s worth of retirement. If other states follow Michigan’s lead, then many public employees may be forced to work during their retirement.
We at NPPC believe every American deserves to retire with dignity and security. Will you join us?